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Business subjects are some of the most popular around the world, meaning competition is stiff! Help your students secure top spots with these 7 steps for writing business personal statements.
The business personal statement is probably something you’ve contended with a lot as a university counsellor. After all, business and its related subjects are some of the most popular degree subjects and majors in the world!
But writing a personal statement for business can be tricky. It’s a subject that requires a diverse blend of skills. Students need to be mathematical, analytical and logical, but also have entrepreneurial spirit and creative flair. Strong leadership and communication skills are often at play, too, particularly for degrees focused on management.
So how can you ensure students’ personal statements hit all these criteria, capture who they are and make them stand out from an ever-growing crowd of applicants? All while keeping to the personal statement’s notoriously tight limit of just 4000 characters?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve created a clear 7-step process for writing a business personal statement. By the end, students will have a memorable, impactful and totally personalised essay!
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Step 1: Answer the fundamental question of a business personal statement
The first step is perhaps the most important: interrogating why they want to study business.
The strongest personal statements showcase a well-rounded interest in business. Therefore, it’s a good idea to suggest that your students jot down some motivations in each of these categories:
Another helpful technique is thinking about how they chose which universities and courses to apply to. Different countries and even universities structure business degrees differently, and have different focuses, specialisations, approaches… So what factors did your students use to narrow down their options? What do their top courses have in common – and why?
These questions can uncover the nuances of what they’re looking for in the degree, and what they’re hoping to get out of it. And that makes a compelling business personal statement!
We want… a personal insight into the applicant, something that goes over and above their academic achievements and includes their motivations, their ambitions, how they chose their university course, what they feel they could contribute to our community, and what it is they seek from their university experience.”Dr Trevor Bolton: Pro Vice Chancellor & Dean Of International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University
Step 2: Sell their suitability in their business personal statement
Once they’ve drafted ideas about why they want to study business, encourage your students to think about why they should.
Here, too, you can add structure to their ideas using handy categories.
1. Their personality and characteristics
Students should keep in mind that a business personal statement – like any other – needs to reflect who they are.
What is it about their personality that’s well-suited to studying business? How does this match their career goals? Which characteristics set them up for success at university?
2. Their skills and interests
Universities want to see a curiosity that takes students beyond the curriculum, and the relevant skills that their curiosity has developed.
Are they maths wizards? Do they have an eye for investment? Have they helped their parents file their taxes? Do they have an in-depth knowledge of a particular economic paradigm?
Some other topics and areas to include:
- Recent news stories that have caught their attention
- Business-related blogs or publications they follow
- Related podcasts they listen to
- Lectures they’ve attended
- Public figures who inspire them
Step 3: Identify relevant experiences to include in the business personal statement
As business is a vocational pathway with infinite real-world applications, universities want to see that students have engaged with ideas and practices outside the classroom, and that their passion has driven real action.
So here are some things to consider:
- Work experiences/placements
- Extracurricular activities
- Extended projects
- Summer school or other courses
- A passion project they’ve pursued outside school (e.g. an online homemade candle shop, a business blog)
For some extra inspiration, check out this video of Melissa talking at one of our student events about choosing experiences for her business personal statement!
Above all, students need to think deeply about each experience. They shouldn’t just write what they did. Instead, have them think about why they decided to do it, and what they learned. Again, this will offer a better indication of who they are, and show that they’re insightful, interested and introspective.
And to give their business personal statement that extra pzazz, see if students can link some of their experiences to current affairs or real-life examples in the business world!
Choosing experiences and skills for a business personal statement
We know that your students probably have a veritable cornucopia of experiences and skills to draw from. To help you narrow them down to that 4000 character limit, here are some of the qualities that admissions tutors look for in business personal statements.
- Enthusiasm and curiosity for the subject
- Initiative and innovation
- Individuality and personality
- Independent learning
- Setting and hitting goals
- Quantitative skills
- Essay-writing skills
- A global mindset
[In business applicants, we look for] the abilities to think and work independently, follow complex lines of reasoning, demonstrate logical thought processes, solve problems and communicate accurately and succinctly”Will Breare-Hall: Student recruitment and study abroad manager
Choosing Experiences for a Business Personal Statement
Step 4: Identify the areas of business that most interest them
For such a competitive and broad subject, simply being passionate is not enough to stand out. Students need to show a thoughtful, individual and developed interest.
Have students write down the topics, classes, projects or sources that have really captivated them in the course of their studies. It doesn’t have to be in a dedicated business class – universities know lots of students don’t have the chance to study business before university!
But they’ve likely encountered economic arguments in history or politics, or practical applications of maths techniques, or theories of occupational psychology… There are all kinds of areas that could have sparked students’ interest in business.
You don’t need to take our word for it! In one of our previous webinars, Rebecca Hill from the University of Exeter spoke about what the subjects she and her fellow admissions tutors look for in business applicants…
Here, too though, it’s absolutely imperative that students go beyond the classroom. Students should also pick out recent news stories, ideas they’ve found in their independent reading and research or case studies that fascinate them.
You can also tell your students not to shy away from being a little bit controversial… Do they have any strong opinions on recent events or issues – like why a well-known company collapsed, why a particular brand came back into the mainstream after decades, or why a real CEO is so fantastic (or terrible!)? If they can back up their thoughts, this can make a really memorable and impactful business personal statement.
The Subjects Aspiring Business Students Should Study
Step 5: Think about what they want to learn next
Universities don’t just want to understand students’ existing interest in business. They’re keen to hear how students plan to keep that motivation up throughout their studies.
A business personal statement should show universities how they will develop the knowledge, skills and curiosities that students are bringing to the table.
And while self-confidence and selling themselves is crucial, a little humility never goes amiss! Students aren’t yet masters of business, and acknowledging that there are areas they don’t know all about indicates their thirst for knowledge and determination to grow.
Top tip: Have students look at the modules offered on their favourite business degree programmes, and/or at the specialisations of the professors in the department. These could be the perfect inspiration or springboard for topics they’d like to pursue!
Step 6: Come up with a compelling structure for the business personal statement
Now that your students have all of the ingredients for a stellar personal statement, it’s time to help them put it all together!
The most important tip is to ensure that each personal statement tells a coherent story.
If your students feel overwhelmed, they can’t go wrong with a great personal statement template – at least as a jumping-off point.
Related resource: Personal statement template
Step 7: Create the business personal statement
After the sixth step, your students will have to go away and independently write a first draft – but they’re not on their own from here on out! They’ll need to share it with you for feedback and proofreading.
Of course, having lots of different drafts zipping back and forth can get confusing and chaotic. It’s a good idea to use a free platform like BridgeU, where you can make edits and suggestions in one single document that students can see and respond to from their own accounts.
It also makes writing references and recommendations so much simpler, as you and your colleagues can draft your comments in line with students’ statements and see their experiences and transcripts with the click of a button.
Learn more by booking your free BridgeU demo below.
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